A decision to start the Liberty Winelands Encounter at the Zorgvliet Wine Estate rather than in Stellenbosch has made for a slightly more manageable opening stage to next weekend’s race.
Taking place in the Cape Winelands from April 13 to 15, the mountain-bike stage race forms part of the Liberty Encounter Series, which kicked off with the TransCape event in February.
The third and final race, the Waterberg Encounter, will take place near Bela-Bela in Limpopo in June.
Winelands route designer Johan Kriegler said one of the significant moves was to change the start of the race to take out the tough Botmaskop climb early in the stage.
“It didn’t make sense in terms of the target market of the race to set up luxurious accommodation [at Le Franschhoek Hotel] for the competitors and then create a stage which leaves them so exhausted they cannot appreciate what is on offer.”
He said there was quite a bit of single-track on stage two over 48km, including the 12km Matoppie climb alongside the Berg River dam.
“This is a little hill like an oasis in the landscape,” he said. “The area is characterised by loose rock and sandy patches so although the stage, at 47km and 1 150m of vertical ascent, doesn’t look too hectic, the surface will make it a little tricky.”
Kriegler said there would be a good challenge for the riders in the final stage of 50km when they went up into Hawekwa Forest, with a sting in the tail as they climbed up to Hawekwa Plantation.
He added that the decision to book out the four-star Le Franschhoek Hotel for the weekend would add much value to the event.
“This gives the cyclists an extended time in luxury surroundings, which is one of the important elements of the whole package.”